The Future is Now: NGLC Grantees Pioneering New Models, Tech in Higher Ed

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When you think of invasive advising, predictive analytics and online assessment and feedback tools, you’re probably reminded of a recent article or blog post on one or more of these subjects. (You are reading the Next Gen Learning blog, after all…)
Or perhaps you’re thinking about how they relate to student support, persistence, and ultimately, degree completion.
While we at NGLC don’t necessarily refer to ourselves as ‘futurists’, the timeliness and relevance of these topics was most certainly anticipated when we issued a challenge to postsecondary institutions back in 2011. The NGLC’s Building Blocks for College Completion initiative called for the development of new models for online and blended programs that significantly improve postsecondary access, persistence, completion, and affordability, without compromising the quality of learning outcomes.
This has led to a roomful of higher ed innovators who are spearheading forward-thinking changes on campuses across the country. Now 2.5 years into their grant-funded projects, the institutions have already solved interesting challenges and produced some promising results.
Today’s consultancy, which was hosted by Rio Salado College, focused on how grantees’ tech innovations are specifically increasing personalization for students. Grantees had the chance to compare notes, discussing their unique experiences and also their advice on shared challenges.
It is the second of two consultancies presented by NGLC this year, intended to both engender discussion and grow a network of innovators.
Perspectives and experiences were diverse, as attendees included associate and assistant provosts, academic advisers, department chairs, and deans and directors of online learning. Aside from grantees, those attending also included participants in the Breakthrough Models Academy and the Breakthrough Models Incubator.
Attendee Karin Moyano Camihort serves as Dean of Online Programs and Academic Initiatives at Holyoke Community College. Camihort, who participated in the 2014 Breakthrough Models Academy (BMA) along with Rio Salado College faculty member Corey Pruitt, cited the consultancies’ transparent nature as a major advantage.
“I attended the competency-based education consultancy at [SNHU’s] College for America, and I’ll say the same about my experience today: being able to have a completely open discussion, to peel back the layers and really understand how institutions are approaching new models and solving issues using technology is incredibly helpful,” she said.
“I’m leaving here with a broader perspective on the challenges many of us in higher education face, and have grown my network of colleagues who I can reach out to moving forward.”
Participants also were introduced to Rio Salado’s approach to enabling student success through technology. With its multi-pronged RioAchieve program, Rio Salado has developed high touch student supports that span an intervention dashboard, a degree completion portal, online academic feedback, progress and course engagement, and a student success helpdesk. The program required the involvement of intra-departmental teams, as well as staff from marketing, web development and other departments.

Below are a few of the big questions that Rio Salado College asked when building their online system:

  • What are the biggest barriers to student success from a holistic, multi-departmental perspective?
  • How can we create a system to manage and act upon automated and manual triggers that create alerts for staff to complete intervention?
  • What type of reporting system would be needed to manage and administer these triggers?

NGLC Program Officer Nancy Millichap notes that Rio Salado’s student cohort of 3,400 is the largest group impacted thus far by a single postsecondary grantee.
In one activity, participants identified forces that are resisting and driving change on their campuses, and methods to navigate them. (Common obstacles such as risk aversion and budgetary constraints came up frequently; less common were the solutions suggested to work around them, which addressed influencing specific political climates and technological opportunities for scalability.)
What are some of the obstacles you’re facing—and how might you influence change on your campus?
Interested in learning more about our postsecondary grantees? Check out Online Learning & Equality: Rio Salado College Hosts Bill Gates. You might see a reflection of your institution in one of the Building Blocks for College Completion grantee projects.